Dear Publishers (and business leaders),
Your business is dying. You know it. Your readers know it. So what are you doing about it?
The belief that the Internet was the death knell of print – and maybe even cable news – was a bit of an exaggeration although your revenue statements clearly show it’s had a major impact.
I’ve seen attempts to move content online via tiered, paid subscription models, which clearly isn’t working to reverse your financial fortunes. I’m thinking you’re all sending Apple Christmas baskets to thank them for the iPad, which – for a time anyway – has enabled the sale of content via Tablet magazines. Still, adoption for paid digital magazines on tablets is a far cry from the heydays of the print publishing industry.
Lessons from the Music Industry
The music publishing industry took a similar, if not more devastating hit with peer-to-peer file sharing. Attempts by the industry to fight consumers in their revolution failed miserably and they finally had to completely reinvent their business in order to survive.
Revenue is now bundled into “lifetime-contracts” that tie up a musician’s brand beyond their recordings to concert sales, endorsement, clothing and perfume lines, movie contracts and online activities. Compilation albums and digital singles have replaced traditional one-band album sales.
The Digital Pandora’s Box
If there’s one lesson we can borrow from the successful overhaul of the music business, it’s that consumers don’t want to be dictated to. Web and social technologies were the equivalent of a digital Pandora’s Box. Once subscribers were shown the free content possibilities accessible via blogs and peer-to-peer sharing, why would they ever go back to paying for a magazine?
The answer? Your audience no longer sees value in content so stop trying to sell it to them. Sell them what they really want and would be willing ot pay for: experience & choice…and the freedom to customize and access that experience across multiple channels from print to Web to mobile and whatever device the creative minds at Apple think of next.
Consider this future:
1. Content bundled with non-content products and services.
Imagine a fashion magazine bundling content with paid loyalty programs at top fashion retailers. Or bundling subscriptions with personal shopping or style consultation? The same could apply to financial publications that provide content bundled with access to financial planning services. Or technology magazines that bundles content subscriptions with access to conferences & trades shows or, better yet exclusive beta-access to new technologies.
2. “Content subscriptions” vs. Magazine subscriptions
The Web has opened up our views – and our demands – to limitless possibilities. We don’t want limits and a magazine’s covers and brand are limits. The past 2 years have seen unparalleled consolidation of publications and media yet why subscriptions are still fixed to individual publications is beyond me. Why can’t I subscribe to self-filtered content that pulls from multiple publications and pay for such a customized experience? Why can’t I have access to content about my beloved Maple Leafs only from Sports Illustrated and Financial News from the New York Post on the industries I wish to follow? Future publications cannot be defined by categories and themes created by you, but by me.
3. Master content licenses
If you wish to charge me for content, you damn well better make that content available on whatever device or medium I choose, whenever I want. And allow me to syndicate content to whatever device I want in order to customize my own experience based on my needs. Content should not be device – or print – specific
4. Interactive Content
Content is no longer static the way that advertising is no longer broadcast but conversational. Social Media has completed changed our expectations. So why is your content not more dynamic? I may value your article and its insights but I would more likely pay for it if I was able to engage a focused, private business group around the content. For example, why can’t I engage industry content along with a dedicated group of colleagues or industry execs to brainstorm how the theories presented could impact our businesses. Imagine the impact on the evolving social enterprise!
You cannot win a revolutionary war against your customers.
This lesson should be heeded by all business leaders, not just the publishing industry. The changes forecast by Web and social technologies require a complete deconstruction of your business model, culture and expectations, not simply a shifting from one channel to another. Leaders today cannot afford to be lazy in their creativity and certainly can’t afford to “stay in the box”. More of the same will yield less than that which was previously achieved.
Are you brave enough to take that leap?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego
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